Read previous post on case here.
Hon. Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos yesterday the 2nd of November 2016 convicted the four companies charged for retaining the total sum of 15, 595, 700 USD, which has been claimed by former First Lady, Patience Jonathan. The four companies whose representatives had pleaded guilty to the charge are Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development & Investment Company Limited, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Avalon Global Property Development Company Ltd. They are charged along with Mr. Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, Amajuoyi Briggs and Adedamola Bolodeoku. When the charge was called up, Mr. Oyedepo informed the court that he was ready to proceed with the review of facts in respect of the companies, charged as 4th to 7th Defendants, who had pleaded guilty. Mr. Oyewole representing Mr. Dudafa in the suit informed the court that the records of appeal in respect of the appeal against the arraignment and plea of guilty of the 4th to 7th Defendants have been entered at the court of appeal and an application for stay of proceedings filed at the Court of Appeal. He urged the court to proceed with full trial in respect of the 1st to 3rd Defendants but to stall the review of facts pending the outcome of the appeal so that the appeal filed would not be overreached. The court however stated that the review of facts should proceed.
Mr. Oyedepo appearing for the prosecution thus reviewed the facts in respect of the 4th to 7th Defendants. He started by stating the offences alleged against the 4th to 7th Defendants. In count 1, the companies are accused of conspiring to commit an offence of retaining the total sum of 15, 595, 700 USD. In count 2, Seagate Property Development & Investment Co. Ltd charged as the 5th Defendant is accused of retaining the total sum of 1,094,500 USD between the 14th and 19th of November 2014 while in count 3, the company is accused of retaining the sum of 1,200,000 USD between the 21st of January and 19th of November 2014. In count 4, the company is accused of retaining the sum of 1, 349, 700 USD. These monies were said to have been retained in an account domiciled with Skye Bank. In count 5, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited charged as the 6th Defendant is accused of retaining the sum of 1, 897, 600 USD between the 21st of February and 19th of November 2014 while in count 6, it was alleged to have retained the sum of 1,839,900 USD between the 10th of February and 20th of May 2015 through an account domiciled with Skye Bank. In count 7, Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd charged as the 4th Defendant is accused of retaining the sum of 1,895, 400 between the 21st of February and 19th of November 2014 while in count 8 it is accused of retaining the sum of 1,200,000 USD. In count 9, Avalon Global Property Development Company Ltd charged as the 7th Defendant is accused of retaining the sum of 250,000 USD on the 28th of May 2015 through an account domiciled with Wema Bank. These monies are said to be proceeds of crime. Mr. Oyedepo stated that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) received an intelligence report showing that the companies were retaining the proceeds of crime. In the investigation of the report, they enquired from Skye Bank Plc. who provided the mandate card and other account opening documentation of the accounts as well as the statements of account. He applied to tender the Statement of accounts. The statements of accounts were shown to the representatives of the companies present in court and there was no objection to tendering them. Mr. Ige Asemudara who is appearing for the 2nd Defendant however objected to the fact that the documents were not shown to lawyers representing the 1st to 3rd Defendants in the charge. He argued that the 1st to 3rd Defendants may be prejudiced by the documents and should therefore be given a chance to make their inputs regarding its admissibility before it forms part of the records of the court. He further argued that it is more important as there is a charge of conspiracy because the destiny of all the defendants in the charge for conspiracy are tied together. He urged the court to allow him time to provide further authorities on the point. Mr. Oyewole representing the 1st Defendant agreed with Mr. Asemudara’s objection and argued that the trial was a joint trial and all the defendants are accused in each count. Mr. Oyedepo in his reply stated that the documents sought to be tendered were to be used against the 4th to 7th Defendants alone and added that in the review of facts currently ongoing, evidence cannot be led against the 1st to 3rd Defendants who have pleaded not guilty to the offences. The court was minded to allow counsel address him further on the propriety of the ongoing trial especially in view of the charge of conspiracy in count 1.
Mr. Oyedepo anxious to proceed with the review of facts applied to withdraw count 1 against the 1st to 3rd Defendants. The 1st to 3rd Defendants were subsequently struck out from count 1 and the statement of accounts admitted by the court. Mr. Oyedepo also sought to tender the mandate cards and other account opening documentation of the companies but withdrew same when counsel representing the 1st to 3rd Defendants objected on the ground that the documents sought to be tendered were the documents which the 1st to 3rd Defendants are accused of forging in counts 11 to 15 of the charge. He however tendered the incorporation documents of the companies as well as the statements of the representatives of the companies.
Justice Kuweumi at the conclusion of the review of facts found that the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and proceeded to convict the companies. He however suspended sentencing the companies until the conclusion of trial. Mr. Oyedepo urged the court to make an order of forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government based on the conviction of the companies. The application was however refused as the court stated that it would reserve sentencing until the conclusion of the charge while also noting the pendency of the civil suit filed by the former first lady claiming ownership of the funds. Read the last report on the civil suit here.
The suit has been adjourned to the 14th of December 2016 for trial of the 1st to 3rd Defendants.